November 19, 2014. Mark it on your calendar or in your journal. Because today, to my mind and experience, marks the beginning of the reform movement of our district. (I say "our" district meaning the parents and taxpayers of Seattle. I leave out staff because they have unions and contracts to protect them.)
In a couple of days, if you watch the meeting online, you might be puzzled. Sure, it's a packed house (and very few who came to the meeting actually got to speak about their issue) and sure enough, droning reports from staff, so what's so different?
The difference is - as Charlie points out - that lawlessness has taken our district. The manipulation of district processes are now being controlled but surely not by the Board.
The Board had to vote - under Board policy 6114 and 1620 - on the Gates Foundation Preschool grant. That Action Item, so lovingly written as to make it sound like the district had to fire this shot against the injustice over the lack of aligned preschool spaces in Seattle. And, if the Board didn't do this NOW, the money might go away. From the Gates Foundation. Please.
All this testifying and commenting was just a show.
Because it was a done deal. (See the grant agreement.)
The Superintendent signed the agreement two months ago. Two months. Before the Board vote. In fact, according to the grant, they got $250K sometime in October. The Board vote? No real meaning.
Once you cut out the Board on these deals, despite Board policy to the contrary, AND the Board knows it and still votes yes, we're done as a democratically-driven district.
It was the juxtaposition that got to me.
Here you had 30+ members of the Native American Community come to speak about their heroes and their sadness that their culture could not be part of SPS even as students as for it to be. Sure, a some Board members spoke of that need for cultural competency but did anyone commit to supporting that? No. And I've heard too many past Board members say the - exact - same - thing and yet, no real Native American program.
(Meanwhile, in LA, they just voted in a mandatory ethnic studies class to graduate from high school.)
You had 30+ Garfield Latin students and parents plus at least 10 Roosevelt Latin students (standing in support for Garfield) who came to advocate for their teacher and their fear of losing the program. They got thanked in the same way that the John Rogers choir did. (This is not to say that the Rogers choir didn't do a great job; they did. But the presence of the two groups was not for the same reason.)
You had 30+parents and children from John Hay/Queen Anne Elementary who came to advocate about their worries about the relocating of an Interagency program across the street from Hay. They had many signs but were very polite and quiet.
I had one parent ask me, after Board comments, "How could they seem to ignore who was in the room? There just was barely any acknowledgment." Yes, it was quite like many elephants were in the room and yet only the one with the headdress with the jeweled "G" got the Board's real attention.
It was the Superintendent thanking Seattle voters - again - for the approval of the preschool plan 1B. And saying "it's an opportunity for all our students" when, in fact, except for Sped preschoolers, preschool is not SPS' job.
It was the Superintendent saying that they had notified all the families involved in the data breach - "all that we could electronically" as if that was all they could do and was good enough. Parents who have asked here about if their child might be in the breach, if they don't have your e-mail (or silly you, you don't have one), our district doesn't feel any need to do any more to inform you.
It is very clear to me where Superintendent Nyland stands and I do not believe it is with the parents of this district.
Then there was Director Blanford, the ultimate "we gotta trust the district" director. We have to
trust the "Superintendent and senior leadership" to find an answer to the data breach and
make sure it won't happen again. Does that answer include
accountability and consequences? He didn't say.
In his usual arrogant manner, being disrespectfully dismissive of the advocates on the lunch/recess times.
He said that he had a "boisterous" community meeting with many of these advocates. He said it was a "very, very complex" issue with "no easy solution." He claimed that one of the two writers of the recent op-ed on this topic in the Seattle Times had said that F/RL kids should leave class 10 minutes earlier than others to go thru the line since they had to use the checkout machine. He said it would stigmatize those kids and was "wrong-headed." He's probably right except for one thing.
I went back to the op-ed. Can't find that. Went to the petition page. Can't find that. So where he read/heard that, I don't know but it isn't what the group - as a group - is advocating.
And he can't applaud parents for advocating, not just for their child, or their school, but for all kids in the district. He can't just say he disagrees. Nope, he had to go out of his way to denigrate that parent.
But wait! There's more. He said there are many challenges to the lunch/recess issues but then, oddly, most were adult issues. Now this is a favorite party line for ed reformers - "don't make this about adult issues but focus on the kids."
Blanford, on the other hand, says that it's about labor agreements and that some of the advocates wanted to "demonize" and "invalidate" opinions of school leaders.
He then went on a rant that "we (should) trust our school leaders to manage the buildings well, if not, take action but, by and large, have faith in trust." Is he saying that about whoever had keys at Beacon Hill and changed test scores including his daughter's? Not so much.
This is a lot of pushback against what parents SAY is important to them and what senior district leadership are doing/want to be doing.
So you can either see this as Day One on the road to the loss of our district or Day One of the time to wake up and fight back before it's too late.
That, dear readers, is up to you. Not me.